Key measures of the Scottish Government's legislative programme for 2011-12, as respects the work of the Society's Law Reform team

Fifteen new bills are in the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for 2011-12, announced by the First Minister last month.

Once published, they will keep the Society’s Law Reform team and committees busy for the year ahead. As well as researching and commenting on consultations, the team work on parliamentary bills at Scottish, UK and European level, to ensure the proposals create good workable law. The committees (there are 23, each covering a different area of law) comprise leading experts in their fields, including some non-solicitors. Each member of the Law Reform team is a secretary to a different committee.

The new legislative programme spans a range of legal areas, including criminal, rural and mental health, to name but a few. Here is a taster of some of the bills the team will be working on:

Alcohol Minimum Pricing

The bill, to be introduced this autumn, will create a minimum price per unit of alcohol. This proposal was originally included in the Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Bill during the last parliamentary term, but was deleted at stage 2.

The Society was active in commenting on the previous bill, submitting written and oral evidence from the Licensing Law and Competition Law Subcommittees. This highlighted that the legality of minimum pricing of alcohol is yet to be determined by the European Court of Justice. The committees also identified other key challenges with regard to enforcement.

The same committees will consider this bill.

Legal Aid & Scottish Civil Justice Council

This bill will make provision for levying financial contributions in criminal legal aid, ensuring that those who are able to pay a contribution to the costs of their defence do so. The Criminal Legal Aid Committee will consider the bill once published.

The committee has previously been broadly supportive of the principle behind the legislation, but recognises that there are many practical details which need to be considered before it can be implemented.

Ministers are currently consulting on proposals to create a Scottish Civil Justice Council, replacing the existing civil rules councils with a single council, which will have a wider policy role. The Civil Justice Committee is considering this consultation.

Self Directed Support

This bill will introduce the language and terminology of self-directed support into law, and widen eligibility to those who have been excluded in the past, for example, carers.

The Mental Health & Disability Law Subcommittee will consider the bill once published. In its original response to the consultation, the committee noted support for the principles of the bill, but was concerned that some of the implications, particularly around the issue of employment, had not been fully considered.

Rights of Children & Young People

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals for a bill which will enshrine in law the duty on Scottish ministers to recognise the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when exercising their responsibilities.

The bill will aim to ensure that all policies and legislation of the Government take account of and promote the rights of children and young people, resulting in greater consistency and clarity and setting an example for the wider public to follow. It marks the start of a process to recognise the duties on ministers or public bodies in relation to the delivery of children’s services.

The Family Law Subcommittee is currently considering the consultation paper. It is anticipated that the bill will be introduced in June 2012.

Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review)

This bill will give statutory authority to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to decide whether it is appropriate to publish a statement of reasons in cases it has investigated where an appeal has subsequently been abandoned. The Criminal Law Committee will consider this bill once published. 

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